Instagram may not be taking over the world, but it sure feels like it is. Instagram has become the place for “cool” brands to make a name for themselves.

And when it comes to restaurants, if you’re not on Instagram, you’re not doing social media right. With a presence on Instagram, your restaurant can post great menu item shots, share behind-the-scene videos, and lest we forget, your patrons can tag you and check in, thus furthering your brand reach.

It really is a can’t lose social media strategy for restaurants.

But as impactful as Instagram can be for restaurants, the only way to really get the most bang for your buck is to design specific paid campaigns for the image-based platform, especially as summer comes into full swing.

We’re not suggesting you’ll get more engagement in the summer, on Instagram, than you would in the winter (or any other season). But the tips and examples we outline below do represent a few quick-win ideas to help you build your presence and following.

And, regardless, Instagram was made for summer. Sunshine. Bright colors. People being active. Your restaurant would do well to jump on the IG bandwagon.

Here’s how to make it happen.

Go on get hashtag happy!

If you want to jump on the summer Instagram wagon, then the platform is more than happy to help make it happen.

In a post this past spring, Get Ready, Summer’s Around the Corner, the folks at Instagram break down a few of the most impactful hashtags to use, including:

  • #beach
  • #summer
  • #summertime
  • #sun
  • #summervibes
  • #summer2017
  • #hot
  • #fun
  • #summerdays

First and foremost, it’s important to realize your posts don’t have to be obvious summer-related posts. Take, for example, this food-based post shared from a dinner at Restaurant Da Michelangelo in Switzerland:

italian restautant instagram

It’s not overtly about summer, but it does display a few types of food and drink folks might want to enjoy during the summer.

How else could you use these top hashtags to promote your own restaurant? #Summervibes, for example, could be used to show off a picture of your outdoor seating, or an iced drink or cold treat.

The possibilities are essentially endless and, as a result, potentially overwhelming. That’s why our Charlotte digital marketing company suggests that you test as much as possible. For each season, including summer, try out Instagram’s seasonally-based popular hashtags and see if they result in an engagement boost.

Keep using the tags that do help, that way you’re not flooding each post with 100+ hashtags.

Taking your hashtags to the next level

Using summer-obvious hashtags in your posting will certainly help gain traction for your brand; however, you can take your hashtag game to a whole new level and connect with different personas whom you’re targeting for your restaurant.

Let’s take, for example, women looking to fit into – or stay comfortable in – their bathing suits. These women want to enjoy summer – including all that food and drink – but are also mindful of the calories involved.

Does your restaurant offer carb-free meals? Why not feature that meal in an Instagram post and add hashtags like #SayNotoCarbs and explain how you made a meal look this good, without traditional ingredients:

carb free meal instagram

What other ways can you use a summer slant with your business? #FatFree, #SummerSpecial, #KidsEatFree – try them all!

What we’d suggest is don’t get hung up necessarily by the popularity of a hashtag. The more posts associated with a hashtag is a good thing because it means a lot of people are using that tag; however, it also means there’s a lot of competition.

Our SEO advertising department in Charlotte recommends employing a mix of hashtags, based on the weight they carry. While we suggest always including a hashtag that has at least tens of thousands of posts associated with it and/or is trending, we also suggest looking for hashtags with a few thousand and, in fact, a few hundred posts.

It’s easy to do in Instagram, using their search toolbar:

instagram toolbar search

Support hashtags with images that rock

The next tactic we recommend you employ is to really assess what menu items in your restaurant fall under the category of “Summer Eats” (#summereats, by the way, is a good hashtag to use as well, with 70,000+ posts attached to it).

Check out this array of food shots that all scream summer:

instagram hastag search results

Food like corn, BBQ, cold pasta, seafood, roasted vegetables, and, of course, frozen treats are all but impossible for Instagram users to scroll past without pausing.

In other words, as important as it is to find, and use, the right hashtags to garner traffic, that traffic will scroll right past your posts if you’re not using the right type of images.

Offer tips inside your posts

You’ve got the right images; you found the best hashtags, so you’re good to go, right?

Not necessarily.

Instagram is currently flooded with food shots that barely offer any type of information aside from a flurry of hashtags:

instagram food pictures

Why not use your posts for something more user-friendly?

Take, for example, that image above. @garlicandzest included a link to the recipe for this post. Problem is, Instagram doesn’t make that link clickable.

Why not, instead, add the entire recipe inside the post itself?

So, for example, your chef could introduce a simple #summereats BBQ menu idea to your followers. Take a photo of the final product, then outline the recipe in your post (don’t forget the hashtags).

Then, take it even further and create an Instagram Story that outlines the recipe in action.

Now that is a great user experience.

Good for summer; but useful all year long

Instagram is a fantastic social platform to keep your restaurant’s branding alive during the summertime lull, but truth be told, your restaurant should be using Instagram in its digital advertising strategy all year long.

Adapt these tips above to each season, from hashtags to types of food shown, and we’re confident you’ll build an impressive stable of IG followers who are more inclined to become die-hard fans.